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Pain of austerity: Tory councillors’ plea to Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue over 15% cuts

By Charlie Bennett

More cuts are looming over Greater Manchester’s fire stations after councillors quarrelled about money management in Sale town hall this week.

Conservative councillors implored the Labour-controlled Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service (GMFRS) to reconsider their cuts to Trafford’s fire stations – which are significantly deeper in the Tory stronghold than in neighbouring Labour  – run boroughs.

Councillor David Acton, who is both Trafford’s Labour Group Leader and the Chairman of the GMFRS, spoke of the necessity of cuts following Whitehall’s decision to cut a further 15% in government grants for the fire authority over the next two years.

Councillor Acton said: “Twelve fire engines arrived during the chemical spillage in Trafford Park.

“They all came from different boroughs. We do not have a Trafford Fire Service; we serve all the people of Greater Manchester.”

He added: “What you are actually complaining about are the cuts. You should not be talking to me but to your government.

“If you do not like them, you should be telling Cameron exactly that.”

The motion recalls a resolution from last November, in which the Council asked the Government to ensure everyone ‘shares the pain of austerity’ and introduce a fairer funding settlement for the fire authorities outside of London and the Shire counties. 

“And lo, it came to pass that the government listened,” said Councillor Hyman, the Growth and Prosperity Executive. “But now we have to revisit the issue.”

Referring to the inequitable funding cuts across the boroughs, Leader of the Council Matthew Colledge told the Opposition: “This is an outrage. You should practice what you preach.”

The Labour Group claims that Trafford, which currently has three fire stations and one fire engine in each, can withstand reductions in fire-fighter strength and some appliances, leading to more resources for more high-risk areas like Salford.

Trafford stations were already requested to stand their second of two fire engines down last year, and 2013 will see more stations do the same.

Labour Councillor Andrew Western said: “It’s from one central pot. If it was ring-fenced, we would not have had enough fire engines to the chemical leak.”

Councillor Acton said: “From the August riots to the big gas explosion in Oldham, climate change and terrorism, it takes all of Greater Manchester resources.

“If we are serious about this, we should be making representation to government to make all our citizens safe.”

Labour’s amendment to the motion called on the Government to reduce the level of cut in grant to a more reasonable level.

The amendment was not seconded and the Conservatives’ motion was carried through.

Councillor Acton told MM after the meeting:They wanted to put undue influence, particularly with myself as the chairman of the fire authority, as political point scoring.

“They were trying to mislead the public into thinking I somehow don’t care about the residents of Trafford. Nothing can be further from the truth.

“I think it’s a shame that they would stoop to that level and not think about the Greater Manchester service we provide.”

Picture courtesy of G-Man via Wiki Commons, with thanks.

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